I’ve written about perfectionism before, but it’s such an important – and hazardous – topic that it bears repeating.
On Sunday night, my husband laboured for hours in the kitchen, making a three-tier cake for our daughter’s 6th birthday and occasionally I’d hear him mutter and curse to himself. The cake wasn’t turning out to be as perfect as he wanted it. Personally, I thought the cake looked fabulous, and I was certain our daughter would be more than satisfied.
‘Yes, but the icing isn’t great, and the writing on the cake is far from perfect,’ he protested.
‘As if she’s going to notice…or care!’ I replied exasperated.
Having once been a perfectionist myself, I now consider the idea that anything needs to – or should be – perfect not just futile but also potentially sinister, harmful and oppressive.
I have an intense dislike for the saying “practice makes perfect” and it breaks my heart when my youngest daughter angrily throws away her writing just because she doesn’t think it’s good enough. She’s six years old for goodness’ sake.
Even I can’t always resist the idea of perfection that pervades our society. Women’s magazines, for example, are filled with articles, ads and celebrity stories that promote the idea of the perfect, flawless woman.
And when I recently went for a facial treatment I’d won in a raffle, the beautician tried to sell me products she promised would restore my skin to what it was ten years ago.
Although I mostly feel ok about the way I look and don’t mind the growing number of wrinkles on my face, or the absence of a flat stomach, my self-esteem wobbled.
To my utter horror, I caught myself briefly considering the possibility of having another nose job. The last time I had reconstructive surgery of any kind I was 20 years old and afterwards I felt done with it. Looking at myself in the mirror, post-op, I thought, ‘ok, this is as good as it gets, now get on with your life.’
Yet, here I was, more than 20 years later, contemplating plastic surgery.
‘I just want to look my best,’ I reasoned, unconvincingly, before coming to my senses.
Besides, I can’t imagine myself with a perfectly straight nose – that just wouldn’t be me. And I quite like being me.